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Tarmac Bourbon was how she’d left it, minus Ranger Rusty on the door. Delilah figured him for needing time in the chair too. Those repairs wouldn’t come cheap, but that was life in the syndicates. The air car disgorged Delilah, Scott, and Lily onto wet asphalt, rising into the sky in a roar of turbines and a spray of driven rain. Delilah caught Sampson’s eyes as the door shut between them, hope lost, gone, like it had never been. They’d be taking him to a reprogramming facility. Reed would connect a hard line and hack his link storage. Extract his secrets.
It felt like too big a thing to worry about. Beer was easier to focus on. She stepped into Tarmac Bourbon like she owned the place, taking in the total lack of anyone else. Not Red, not Martini Olive, and not Captain Jack either. Most likely they were in the same place as Ranger Rusty. She ran a hand through her hair, her arm fzzt’ing in complaint, then walked behind the bar. “I’ve changed my mind. Beer won’t slake my thirst.”
“My kind of after party,” said Scott, seating himself across the bar from her. He was smiling in a way that said maybe later we can..? She returned the smile. Maybe later, but it wouldn’t be what he was expecting. This would be the party of his life if she found what she expected.
Her systems detected link chatter between Scott and Lily, and she inserted herself into the comm, not even making a ripple. Smooth like the hundred-year-old whiskey Delilah’s hands had found, like they knew where to look.
Lily: “Can we trust her?”
“It’s not about trust. We’ve got a contract.” Scott was still smiling at Delilah, the bar like a shared secret between them, while he talked to Lily over the link.
“OIA’s recovery project’s secrecy is paramount,” said Lily, her link voice calm as a Sunday morning, cool as a deep lake. She was making her way to a booth in the empty bar.
OIA. Omo’s Island Adventure. Those fuckers. Delilah put a cocktail in front of Scott, still smiling. He looked up at her. “What’s in it?”
“A surprise,” said Delilah.
Scott lifted the drink, inhaling the aroma. “It smells like Christmas.”
“I said it was a surprise, didn’t I?” said Delilah. Then she shot him through the bar, the fifty calibre round passing through faux wood, his expensive suit, his chest, and out through his spine with no loss of purpose. He fell back in a spray of blood and wasted cocktail. Lily had turned at the sound, but Delilah had already raised her weapon. She fired another round, but the stiction in her arm cause the shot to go wide. Her lattice coiled around her at the failure.
Lily dropped behind a booth. “What the fuck, Delilah!”
Delilah’s overlay mapped the booth, giving her a wireframe of Lily behind it. She leveled her sidearm. “My brother,” she said, firing. Her arm twitched, dampeners not working right, but she still hit Lily’s leg.
The other woman screamed, then crawled towards the rear of the bar, red exit sign still bright with promise. When she spoke, it sounded like it was through gritted teeth. No pain buffers. Interesting. “Delilah, we had a good thing going on. We could have made you rich.”
“I was rich before,” said Delilah. She braced her traitorous arm with her good hand, aiming. She fired, her overlay’s wireframe telling her she’d hit Lily’s head. There was a clump as her body slumped to Tarmac Bourbon’s floor. “I’d trade all the money in the world for my brother.” Delilah vaulted the bar, her overlay warning her that her power supply was running low. She’d been taxing her bionics a lot on this mission. EM pulses. Physical motion. Overtime, always overtime. She unspooled cabled from a pouch, kneeling next to Scott’s body. Delilah flipped him over, brushing back the hair at the base of his skull. There. She peeled back the fake skin covering the diagnostic port, connecting her cable. Delilah jacked the other end to her own diagnostic port. What were these fuckers hiding? Metatech’s black icebreakers went to work, shredding the Reed safeguards like washi. Files. So many files. The first she hit were on Delilah herself. What Reed knew about her. Her family connection to Oliver, a sufferer of the disease. A thread they could pull, or a chain they could yank. The code for the tracker they’d placed on her. Perfect.
Pursing her lips, Delilah ran a search. Omo’s Island Adventure.
The trove wasn’t immense, a low-grade sarariman like Scott couldn’t be expected to know everything. It’d be better to get Lily’s information, but a headshot put an end to that hope. Still. There was a name — some asshole named Austin Ainley. Mind control. Hard link failures in the lab. A move to ‘market testing’ using a new, popular synthetic entertainment product. Sampson hadn’t been lying. And Delilah had led Reed right to his house, exposed who he was, and felled the man before he could … what? Expose them? Release a cure? The latter was a pipe dream, low-grade crystals smoked for an easy rush. The former had promise. There wasn’t enough in the info dump to expose Reed, and Delilah didn’t have the contacts to do the right level of damage. She knew someone who might though.
Delilah clenched her teeth, disconnecting the jack from Scott’s skull. His head bounced once against the floor as she let it go. At least she’d left the tracker in the air car. She could find where they’d taken him. She keyed her systems again, engaging the tracker routines. Delilah fed it the code, ignoring its complaints of low power, her link plenty strong for this small task. She hoped she had enough left in the tank to see the rest of the night through. Fuck. You just hope you can shoot straight.
What she really hoped was that she’d make it in time.
The door of Tarmac Bourbon slipped closed behind her, rain welcoming her back into its cooling embrace.
She’d boosted a ground car, jacked the nav computer, and pointed it like a spear. It took her out past the Duvall urban density projects with their humans stacked towards the skies. The car sped along, rain her only company. She missed Sampson’s voice near her, fake thought it might have been. Everything was fake; you needed to grab onto the best synthetic reality you could find.
Time marched on. Delilah itched to make the car race ahead of the wind. She knew doing that would attract attention, and so she kept the car under the limit, snuggled in among other early morning traffic. Dawn was bruising the sky, ugly clouds keeping the sun away.
She approached the tracker’s location, pulling the car off the road and taking the rest of the distance on foot. The Reed reprogramming facility — it couldn’t be anything else — was a long, low building. It wore the disguise of an off-brand office supplies company, tarnished signage worn to illegibility. A good enough front, because who the hell still needed paperclips? A few ground cars were in a big empty lot out front, paper trash matted against the cracked concrete ground in viscous clumps. The only thing out of place was the Reed air car she could see peeking over the lip of the roof. Right place. They must have figured that speed was better than maintaining the disguise of their black ops facility, but then in Delilah’s experience Reed’s expertise wasn’t in covert ops. They made synthetic entertainment. Anything outside that lane? It was like they were playing paint-by-numbers in someone else’s coloring-in book. That suited her fine.
Her laminar armor was whisper quiet as Delilah moved up to the door, the interior grey through tinted windows. Her HUD said it was nudging seven AM, time enough for high performers to be at their desks. She pushed open the door, jacket lapping at her heels. The entrance foyer sported some overstuffed couches with split pleather, and a screen blaring a newscast from Reed’s own networks. A reception desk sat front and center, two men behind it.
Her overlay, still complaining about the lack of power reservers, mapped them both. Extensive work, bionics from tip to toe. They weren’t receptionists. They were jailers dressed in wool suits inlaid with Kevlar, identical close-cropped haircuts over bland, clinic-perfect faces. “Can I help you?” said the one on the right.
“Yeah,” said Delilah. “I’ll need you to bring Sampson out here.” There was a moment’s hush in the real, the link comm chatter going bright and loud around her. She threw down an EM field, hazing the comms, while drawing her sidearm. The overtime fell around her, the hard light of dawn easing a little as the overripe seconds waddled past. Her weapon hammered the air, a bullet taking the right guard through the chest, another through his throat, and a last one through his head. His body was starting the graceful backward spiral that would take him to the ground as his partner ducked below the desk.
He’d moved too fast for a normal, his own overtime giving him enhanced speed. Whatever. She fired again, the fifty calibre round impacting against the reception desk, creating a dimple but not penetrating. Armored cover. Makes sense. The wireframe of the guard on her overlay showed him making for the left side of the desk, so she went right. Her body felt overstuffed like the couches, the low power of her systems and the damage she’d sustained making her movements less than perfect.
What was less than perfect for Metatech was still more than enough to take care of some Reed flunkies. She made the side of the desk before the guard had made much ground, leveled her weapon, and fired. Double tap. Smoke curled like a lazy Sunday riser from the barrel of her weapon. She fed it a fresh magazine. Next.